Do you work with a Millennial? Shake his or her hand and say thank you.

Now that Millennials (the largest generation in U.S. history) make up the majority of the global work force, their influence on employers is dramatically shifting how companies and bosses connect with and engage all employees -- whatever generation.

The importance of emotional currency -- what makes people feel supported, valued, developed and appreciated -- has become a hot commodity for impacting businesses, satisfying customers, and keeping shareholders happy. Workplace values like freedom, democracy, trust, transparency, ownership, and happiness -- unheard of less than a decade ago -- are quickly becoming the norm, thanks in part to the influence of Millennials.

Leadership has certainly evolved at a rapid pace just in a few years, and if you're a student of its research and best practices (or in any management capacity), you should indisputably recognize that there are things you just don't do anymore.

To really motivate and connect with employees in a way that leads to business results, allow me to clue you in to 3 really dumb moves you should absolutely avoid.

1. Stop ignoring employees.

If you're hoping to keep your best Millennial employees engaged (or any other generation, for that matter -- this is the human condition), start talking about their work regularly.

In a recent report published by PeopleFluent, half of all Millennials surveyed said that they do value the obsolete HR practice of performance reviews, but not as an awkward, once-a-year event. They want it in the form of feedback at least monthly, if not more frequently. Only 9.8 percent prefer the standard annual version.

Companies like Officevibe and TINYPulse make a living out of this, providing "always on" pulse surveys to drive culture, engagement, and performance.

The focus for managers worried about carving out time to do this should be on making your feedback shorter, more frequent, and constructive. This is what Millennials want.

The same PeopleFluent report found that up to 78 percent of Millennials want mentors to help them feel more engaged with their organization. This means not only structured mentorship programs but also informal instruction from more experienced peers and colleagues while learning on the job.

2. Stop treating employees like cogs and numbers.

The most successful leaders charged with ensuring their employees' success care enough to meet their needs as valued employees and human beings.

This premise is consistent with leading research by Gallup. In one study of 7,272 U.S. adults, it found that 50 percent of employees left their job "to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career."

In other words, those 50 percent of employees left because managers didn't care about them. Unfortunately, employees are hired every day in stressful, fear-based, politically-charged environments to produce results with little in return for their efforts. Cogs in a wheel, sadly.

What do employees want and need the most as a performance motivator? While a paycheck helps, that money will be spent tomorrow. They are looking for recognition and praise.

Being recognized in front of the organization for hard work is the gold standard -- everyone, especially peers, can see the value that you're bringing. For Millennials, recognition is especially important as this generation has a particular sensitivity to it.

3. Stop calling all the shots without involving the team.

Since employees are the ones most intimately acquainted to how things are going on in the trenches -- with customers, tasks, processes, what is working and not working -- leaders will gain their trust by coming to them first for input, buy-in, advice, and strategy.

This fosters a culture of trust, questioning and creativity, where followers feel safe enough to contribute ideas and share concerns that have value and can help resolve situations.

The cultures at many of these Best Companies (think Google, SAS, and Acuity) are known for giving employees a meaningful voice in how the business gets run. Workers are encouraged to contribute ideas outside of the scope of their day-to-day functions and job descriptions.

So what do you do in practice? You allow your key employees a seat at the table to make decisions and exercise influence over things that matter in the business. Think of projects, tasks, and meetings about strategy, mission, and culture in which you can involve your people.

Conclusion

What employees need and expect in exchange for their work has greatly changed. Salaries and perks alone no longer motivates as it once did. People now have deeper aspirations in their work that were unimaginable before Millennials arrived on the scene. Employees of every generation want to feel valued, grow and develop, be part of a respectful and ethical community of work, have ownership of decisions, feel appreciated and guided by servant-leaders who facilitate an environment where work has meaning and purpose. That's reason enough to want to get up in the morning and run to work, not away from it.

Published on: Aug 25, 2017